While most of the “Case For” articles on this site deal with larger or more prestigious franchises, some instead focus on more niche series that, despite their smaller sales figures, have had a rather large impact on Nintendo or game as a whole. Such is the case of this article, as suggested by Patreon Jazzman, which focuses on the farmer(s) from the Harvest Moon, now Story of Seasons, franchise.
While many games focus on grand adventure or thrilling plotlines, the farmers in the Story of Season’s games have always had more grounded goals. Grounded, however, doesn’t mean easy. It will take a time, effort, and heart to rebuild that dilapidated old farm you inherited, and to also build relationships with your neighbors along the way. If you’re lucky, or blessed by the Harvest Goddess, you may even find true love.
The series that Western gamers know as Harvest Moon is known as as Bokujō Monogatari (牧場物語) in Japan. The franchise had been localized by Natsume since it’s inception, but a falling out between them and developer Marvelous AQL has resulted in the series being brought over by Marvelous AQL subsidiary XSEED games. To make things more confusing, Natsume has begun making it’s own games under the Harvest Moon banner for release only in North America. In order to help keep things clear, the series will be referred to as Story of Seasons for the remainder of this article.
Story of Seasons defined the farming simulation genre of games for two decades. The series began with 1996’s Harvest Moon on the Super Nintendo, and consisted of over a dozen games on a wide variety of platforms. The series gameplay revolves around life on a farm, and such activities as growing crops, mining for materials, and ranching livestock are essential gameplay elements. Many games in the series, however, go beyond this basic premise. The games are life simulators, and maintaining a healthy social life, including finding a spouse and raising children, also factor in. The series has, in it’s many years of life, resulted in a few spinoffs. These include Puzzle de Harvest Moon, a DS Puzzle Title, and Rune Factory, a sub series that mixes classic Harvest Moon gameplay with action elements.
Reasons for inclusion:
The Story of Seasons franchise has a long history on Nintendo systems. The series was brought to life on the Super Nintendo, and has had appeared on every Nintendo console, save the Virtual Boy, ever since. The series’ long and continuous presence amongst the Nintendo fanbase is also not due solely to its retro titles. The most recent Story of Seasons game was released to favorable reviews and good sales on the Nintendo 3DS in 2015. Really, this is franchise that just feels like it belongs on Nintendo consoles. True, it has appeared on hardware for other companies as well, but the best selling game in the series (Harvest Moon: It’s a Wonderful Life on Gamecube) and perhaps the most beloved game in the series (Harvest Moon 64 on the Nintendo 64) have been on Nintendo systems.
While exact numbers for the series sales are difficult obtain, the series does well enough to ensure many sequels. The combined numbers for the various game in the series, including spinoffs, seems to be around 10 million units across the over 30 games in the franchise. The games on the DS alone have sold over a million copies. The series is also a pioneer in the farm/life sim genre, so many games, from Farmville to Animal Crossing, have Story of Seasons to thank for clearing the path.
Reasons for exclusion:
Story of Season games are decent sellers as a whole, but none of the individual games are heavy sellers. Similarly, the games review decently, but not exceedingly well. These metrics make the series seem overall unremarkable, especially compared to some of the blockbuster third party characters currently in Smash Bros.
Although it is not exactly clear if this would be an issue, the legal standing of the Harvest Moon property outside of Japan could also make things more difficult. It is unclear exactly what Natsume and Marvelous AQL own. For instance, the most obvious choice for a named farmer would be Pete, the protagonist of over 10 games in the series who is known by his white shirt, pair of blue overalls, and backwards baseball cap. In Nastume’s latest game, Harvest Moon the Lost Valley, Pete is the main character.
Moveset limitations may also prove to be a concern. The Story of Seasons Farmers do not engage in combat, and most of their actions would seem mundane. This may not be a huge issue, however, as Animal Crossing’s Villager faced a similar issue and was still made a very unique fighter. Some might also argue that the farmer might be a little too close to Villager in design. This is not exactly true, however, as the combinations or farm implements (such as a hoe and pick axe), livestock, and a variety of fast growing and slow growing crops could make the Farmer unlike any other Smasher.
What is Smash Bros. without music? Here are a few tracks you can look forward to if the Harvest Moon Farmer makes it in.